Is War a Spiritual Experience?

“Many will argue that there is nothing remotely spiritual in combat. Consider this. Mystical or religious experiences have four common components: constant awareness of one’s own inevitable death, total focus on the present moment, the valuing of other people’s lives above one’s own, and being part of a larger religious community such as the Sangha, ummah, or church. All four of these exist in combat. The big difference is that the mystic sees heaven and the warrior sees hell.”

Source: Is War a Spiritual Experience?

I found this post to be most interesting, and I thought it might be relevant to some of you, dear readers.

Five Reasons Why the Need to “Pass” is Bullshit

It’s becoming fairly well-known, at this point, that there are many trans people who do not feel the need to “pass” (that is, to look as normative as possible for their gender).  Unfortunately, a lot of the articles I’ve read on this don’t provide much of an explanation for why this is, and as a result, there are a lot of confused cis people out there making ignorant (and sometimes outright hateful) assumptions.

To start with, let’s get one thing out of the way: sex is not the same as gender identity, which is not the same as gender presentation.

Sex (the noun, not the verb ;P) refers to a collection of physical characteristics, including one’s sex chromosomes, one’s genitalia, the outward appearance of one’s genitalia, sex hormone levels, and secondary sex characteristics developed during puberty. These generally align in one of two ways: a) XY sex chromosomes, a penis and testicles, more testosterone than estrogen, facial hair, a deep voice, an adam’s apple, etc., or b) XX sex chromosomes, a vulva and ovaries, more estrogen than testosterone, developed breasts, wide hips, and so on.

Many people believe that these two sexes are the only sexes, but this is a false dichotomy. There are a number of intersex conditions where these characteristics don’t match up in the expected ways, including when it comes to sex chromosomes. For instance, someone with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome has XY sex chromosomes, undescended testicles, a vulva, and developed breasts. People with AIS are frequently assigned female at birth (AFAB for short), and usually identify as women.

Which leads me to gender identity. Rather than a collection of physical characteristics, one’s gender identity has to do with how one thinks of oneself, including one’s internal self-image. For many (but not all) trans people, this internal self-image does not match their outward appearance with regards to the sex characteristics they were born with.

On a related note, the terms “male” and “female” are sometimes used for sex and sometimes for gender; personally, I try not to use them for sex anymore. If I need to refer to a particular aspect of sex, let’s say internal genitalia, I’ll instead say “people with testes” and “people with ovaries”. This may be clinically blunt, but it’s more accurate and more inclusive for both intersex and trans people.

Lastly, one’s gender presentation or gender expression refers to how one conforms or doesn’t conform to society’s expectations of what men and women should look like. For example, someone who wears dresses, make-up, and high heels is “presenting” as a woman. Although how one presents oneself often relates to one’s gender identity, the two are not the same. That person presenting as a woman might indeed be a woman – or they could be a man in drag, an AFAB trans person in a situation in which they don’t feel comfortable presenting as their actual gender, or any number of other possibilities.

So, with that in mind, allow me to explain why, exactly, trans people shouldn’t be expected to pass:

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1: Cis people aren’t expected to pass.

A cis woman who has short hair, wears a t-shirt and pants, doesn’t shave, and/or doesn’t wear make-up or jewelry is called a tomboy. This is perfectly socially acceptable in informal social situations, though there is often an assumption that many tomboys are lesbians. In formal situations, this may be seen as lazy or even rude, but the cis woman’s identity as a woman is rarely, if ever, questioned.

A cis man who has long hair, wears a skirt or dress, shaves, and/or puts on make-up or jewelry is called a crossdresser. This is much less socially acceptable and the assumption that all male crossdressers are gay is much more widespread (the majority are in fact straight), but most people still don’t question their gender.

And yet when a trans woman doesn’t shave or wear make-up, or when a trans man has long hair and wears jewelry, many cis people refuse to acknowledge their gender because they aren’t “trying hard enough”. Even when they do go out of their way to “dress the part”, they are often ridiculed because their facial or body structure doesn’t fit what cis people see as normal for their gender.

This is a ridiculous and entirely illogical double standard.

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2. Some trans people can’t medically transition.

Hormone replacement therapy, facial reconstruction surgery, genital reconstruction surgery – these experiences are seen as the gold standard for passing in our society. In many places, legal recognition of one’s gender is based on whether or not one has opted to medically transition. But not all trans people can accomplish this.

Hormone replacement therapy is only an option if one’s hormone levels are already within a certain range of values. For instance, if someone has a heightened level of androgens (the group of “masculinizing” hormones which include testosterone), injecting more androgens into them will actually have a feminizing effect because their body will convert the extra androgens into estrogen. Similarly, someone with a higher-than-normal level of estrogen who is injected with more estrogen will convert the extra estrogen into testosterone.

With both HRT and surgery, finances are another big hurdle. It is extremely expensive to medically transition. Many insurance companies do not cover the cost or only cover it under certain circumstances (this is one of the reasons why many trans people who do want to get genital reconstruction surgery go to places like Thailand, where it is cheaper and much easier to access). All insurance companies require a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder, which means that the trans person must be able to prove that they want to be perceived as and recognized as their gender. For trans men and women who don’t feel the need to conform to societal norms about how their gender should look, it can be difficult to find someone willing to give them a GID diagnosis.

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3. Some people are already passing – just not as men or women.

While most people are either men or women, there are many (myself included) who aren’t. Whether we’re androgynous, genderqueer, genderfluid, bigender, agender, demigender, neutrois, or one of the countless other varieties of gender identity that don’t fit into the gender binary, we’re at our most comfortable when we don’t have to conform to social standards for masculinity or femininity. There is a fair amount of overlap between trans and non-binary identities (I identify as both), but it’s important to note that not all non-binary people identify as trans.

I’m genderfluid, meaning that my self-image fluctuates between genders (usually somewhere along the spectrum between male and female). Passing as my gender means different things on different days. I have an undercut, which is a very popular haircut among non-binary people because it’s so versatile. I actually prefer to have long hair, but dealing with the constant assumptions about my gender became too tiring. Some days I’ll leave the top down for a bob, sometimes I’ll braid it, and sometimes I’ll slick it back; around the house I often just stick it in a ponytail and call it good.

I love wearing dresses, skirts, and robes – in fact, I prefer these kind of loose clothes even when I’m feeling more masculine-of-center – but I also like button-down shirts, blazers, leggings, and straight-cut jeans. I shave semi-regularly, but lately I’ve taken to leaving my legs unshaven because I like how fuzzy they feel. I wear my wedding ring and a religious pendant almost all the time, and I have a beautiful necklace from Beth Wodandis’ sacred queenship collection which I wear often. Anything more than that feels like a performance – it’s fun for a short duration but tiresome on a daily basis. I rarely wear make-up, and when I do, it’s actually usually on my more masculine days to help give my face more of an angular look.

For some non-binary people, they can pass as both their actual gender and the one they are perceived to have by society at the same time. For others, this isn’t the case, but just because they don’t look like a stereotypical man or woman doesn’t mean they aren’t necessarily presenting themselves as their gender.

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4: You don’t have the right to tell anyone else how to dress or otherwise express themselves through their appearance.

If you see someone wearing bright orange socks, it’s not your place to go up to them and say, “your socks are too bright, you should wear black socks instead”. Likewise, it’s not your place to tell someone that you think they’re overweight and should go on a diet. It’s not your place to tell a woman that she’s exposing too much skin. It’s not your place to tell a trans person to shave or not shave their legs, to wear or not wear makeup, to grow their hair out or to cut it short.

There are a few, very narrow circumstances in which it might be appropriate to critique someone’s appearance, but you should always do so directly to that person and, preferably, in private. These circumstances include:

A) If the person specifically asks you for your opinion.

B) If the person has food in their teeth, toilet paper stuck to their shoe, or if their underclothes are showing and you’re quite certain it’s unintentional. (Seriously, if this is the case, please let us know. I hate finding out after the fact that I spent several hours looking like a fool.)

C) If you have a legal responsibility to report or enforce the dress code of a school or workplace. Dress codes themselves are problematic as they are frequently misogynistic, transphobic, and very rarely account for non-binary identities, but if you are legally obligated to say something to someone whom you see breaking dress code, congratulations – you are officially the fashion police. Just keep in mind that your jurisdiction goes no further than your place of employment.

D) If you are the actual police and the person in question is illegally engaged in public nudity.

E) If the person is wearing something explicitly racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory – this is the one case in which someone’s appearance can justifiably be called harmful, because it causes others of like mind to think that their discriminatory practices are valid and thus perpetuates discrimination and violence against that group of people.

…Aaand that’s it. Under any other circumstance, your opinion is entirely unwarranted and most likely unwanted.

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5: Because it doesn’t affect you.

Whether or not a trans person decides they want to pass is their choice and theirs alone.

Period. Full-stop. End.

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As a final note, regarding the term “passing” itself, it has historically been used to refer to someone who is not a member of a group of people to be able to masquerade as one of them (for example, light-skinned POC passing as white). So, the way this term is often used by cis people is usually pretty insensitive – a trans man doesn’t need to “pass” as a man; he already is one. There isn’t a good alternative term to use, though, and most trans people are okay using the term among themselves. If you’re cisgender and choose to use this term, please do so cautiously and respectfully (for example, clarifying your meaning or writing the term in quotes).

There are a lot of trans people who do decide to pass, but there are also many who don’t. Saying that one group is “really” a member of their gender and the other isn’t is ignorant, hurtful, and can potentially be quite harmful. As a trans person who cannot always pass (specifically when I have more masculine days), the disconnect between my body and my gender is tough enough to deal with as it is without someone making it worse by invalidating my identity. In addition to disphoria and transphobia, many other trans people have to deal with depression, and the rate of suicide among trans people is disturbingly high as a result.

On the other hand, having someone validate my gender – such as by addressing me by the correct pronouns, or by using language which is inclusive of trans and non-binary identities – can be very affirming. If you want to be an ally to trans and non-binary people, please respect the choices we make about our appearance and, if you can, find a way to affirm our identities without critiquing us. Even a simple word of kindness can go a long way. Who knows – you may even help save someone’s life.

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Buck Gendeer Roles by Cuteosphere

A Passing Moment

In pursuit of knowledge,

I have found the Ineffable

The questions that lead not to answers

But a space for answers, unfilled,

Awaiting my thoughts

Which do not come

Instead silence, wonderment,

A Mystery unsolvable

A non-answer

A space

Not empty, but full, spilling over,

A flood of sweet nothing

I could drown in this peace

 

On the Reality of the Non-Physical

Trigger Warning: rape, child abuse

My stepfather violated me again last night.

Even as I write these words, knowing that I need to say them, I question the truth of my experience. I question it, as I have every time this has happened, every night I’ve woken up feeling like I need to crawl out of my body and burn it, scald it clean of his touch and my own body’s reaction to it. I question whether I should say “my stepfather raped me”, instead, or if I shouldn’t say anything because none of it “really” happened. It was just a dream.

It was just a dream.

“Get out of my room,” I had said. I felt that familiar rage rising, my voice shaking in what he always mistook for fear. He took a step closer, closing the distance, touching my thigh, moving his hand up. He smirked, knowing that he was a solid 100+ pounds heavier than me, trained in Krav Maga, and that I could never physically best him. Every cell in my body screamed at me a red alert – danger, move, get away – but I couldn’t do a damn thing about what was happening. I was backed against a wall and I knew what he was capable of if I tried to fight him. His calloused hand traveled up to my groin and my stomach twisted with nausea and terror.

It was just a dream.

Every part of me still screamed a red alert –  every part but one. Horrified, I felt my vagina respond to his intrusion with arousal. I looked in his eyes with a last-ditch-effort silent plea, and saw in them what I can only describe as a cruel glee. He had every intention of doing this to me, of taking pleasure in my pain, of putting me in a place of paradox and watching my brain struggle to resolve the contradiction between what was happening to me and how my body was reacting.

It was just a dream.

When I woke up, I still felt that same trembling rage. I was still aroused and hating myself for it. I still felt violated. I still had a paradox I have no idea how to resolve – why the fuck did I just dream of something so terrible? Is my brain trying to “help” me to process my stepdad’s abuse and its continual effects on me? Or is some part of my stepdad really there in these dreams? Which is worse – to have my own brain turn on me while my stepdad is entirely unaware of the damage he continues to do to me, or for him to still be able to fuck with my head from over 3,000 miles away? Or – is it possible that this was built from a memory I can’t consciously recall, maybe one of the many that Kenara experienced instead of me? I know that part of his motivation for abusing me the way he did was sexual (he would frequently force me to strip before being punished), but did he go so far as to molest me? Which is the truth?

This isn’t the first time I’ve dreamed of my stepdad in this way. The earliest dream I can recall where he was sexual with me, I was about eight. Over the years I’ve had many of these dreams; at least one a year, usually more. Each time it’s a different scenario – sometimes he holds me down, sometimes he drugs me; sometimes I’m an adult and sometimes I’m a child again. Always I wake with the same feelings of revoltion, rage, violation. Sometimes I would manage to take back control in some way, usually violently – in one scenario, I castrated him and used his penis as a dildo while he bled out. Thus I can sometimes resolve the contradiction by hurting him, denying him his pleasure while reclaiming my own. Sometimes this violence is to turn the experience around and rape him instead, and I wonder if that makes me a bad person, if the fact that I dream of it means that I’m capable of inflicting this terrible experience on others.

I have never been physically raped, at least not that I can consciously recall. I had an experience several years ago in which a “hypnotherapist” – that’s what he claimed to be, though it was very likely a lie – induced me to orgasm against my consent. He had approached me under the pretense of doing a study on abuse victims; he did not make his true intentions known until I was already under. Several times throughout this experience I told the hypnotist to stop, and he repeatedly ignored me. I was in a compromised mental state and he fucked with me. I felt violated then just as I do now. It took me almost two years to learn to frame that experience as rape, regardless of the fact that nothing physical occurred – to acknowledge that I was not capable of consent while in a hypnotic state, and that I was not responsible for what he did to me.

I have also experienced rape on the Astral. That feeling of loss of agency – especially when it happens during sleep paralysis, when I can’t physically move no matter how hard I try – that feeling is the same one I experienced with the hypnotist, and the same one I experience in these dreams with my stepfather. I keep trying to tell myself that there is a difference between what I’ve experienced and the experiences of survivors of physical rape, that I can’t relate to what they’ve been through and that I shouldn’t frame these experiences as in any way similar to theirs. It feels presumptuous and shameful to speak of these experiences as rape when I have never suffered the physical effects of the act. I know firsthand how devastating physical trauma of any kind can be, and in no way do I think that the physical effects of rape are insignificant.

Even so, every time I read articles or personal accounts of rape, I see myself in them. I know several other people who have experienced rape on the Astral or in dreams, as well as survivors of physical rape. Based purely on their reactions, the emotions that they experience in the retelling, the way they speak – I can’t tell the difference. As far as I can tell, regardless of the presence or absence of physical trauma, the mental experience of rape is the same. If I can see that in others, why do I so often question it in myself? Why is it so hard for me to use the word “rape” for these experiences? These experiences were very real to me in the moment they happened, and they continue to affect me. To say that they are not real now is to do myself a disservice.

I still get triggered, still feel my stepdad’s hand on me and in me – the hand that hit me as a child, the one whose every line and ridge has been ineradicably etched in my memory. I’m still left with that nauseating paradox, that feeling of shame and betrayal at my genitalia for its reaction to stimulation regardless of circumstance. I still feel responsible, in some way, for my experiences despite knowing that I had no conscious control over them – and in the context of these dreams, no way to stop him and come away unscathed. I’m still astonished by how much Kalith can care for me, how giving he is. I still feel terrible for needing so much more care than most. I still don’t know what the fuck to do with all these feelings, how to reconcile them with everyday life.

My mind is still scattered, scrambling for explanations that I don’t have. I don’t know if these dreams are just mine, or if my stepdad is actively inflicting them on me. I don’t even know if that’s something he’s capable of, metaphysically speaking, though I’ve long theorized that his psychopathy stems from being demonic or possibly vampiric. If he is, he hasn’t left any trace that Kalith can identify. I know that if he is the cause of this, it wouldn’t make me feel any better. It certainly wouldn’t make me feel any safer. If he isn’t, if it’s something my brain is putting me through, I don’t even know how to begin processing that. It’s fucked up and messy and complicated.

All I know is that these are my experiences, these are my feelings, and they are real.

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Misadventures in Diagnosis

I went to see a psychologist today. It was my second appointment; we hadn’t yet finished the standard round of questions about family and childhood history. I had brought my three-page list of notes on my symptoms and other indicators of ASD – very little of which had been discussed in the first appointment – and I was interested in hopefully sharing some or all of them with her. After a time, the psychologist came out. She was dressed up for Halloween, wearing an orange miniature hat, a black shirt and tutu, and striped stockings. It matched the decor, which looked like a Halloween superstore threw up all over a child’s daycare center. She ushered us into her office, and then we completed the initial assessment.

“I think you may have something other than ASD. You said you enjoy research?” she pauses, and I nod.” You’ve described being absorbed in your research. For people with ASD, it’s more than just enjoyment. They get so absorbed that they can’t hold a conversation.”

I furrow my brows, confused. She had never asked me about the degree of absorption I experienced. She had not seen me so absorbed; she had nothing to base her assessment of my behavior on. I could say that that is in fact the case; I can’t focus on both my research and a conversation at the same time. If I attempt to, I miss parts of the conversation or my concentration is broken, my train of thought derailed to the point where I can’t recall what I was thinking about before the interruption. I could say this, but I can’t find the right words.

“They can’t,” Kalith says.

“No, they can’t.”

“I was agreeing with you,” he says, frustration clear in his voice. “They can’t.” He points at me.

“They?” she asks. “Are you referring to your wife?”

The conversation delves into pronouns and gender identity. I forget what had brought up the topic in the first place, forget what my reply was going to be.

Eventually, we return to her thoughts on an ASD diagnosis.

“I don’t think you have ASD,” the psychologist says, “You and your husband seem to have a very close relationship, would you agree?”

I look at Kalith, perplexed as to where she is going with this line of thought. “Well, yes.”

She flashes a too-cheery smile. “See, people with ASD are incapable of having close relationships.”

I blink at her, stunned. My husband’s hands tighten in anger.

I search for words. “…I know several people who have been diagnosed with ASD who are married or otherwise in a close relationship.”

“Oh, that may be,” She smiles again, like she’s placating a child who doesn’t know any better. “This is just what I’ve seen in my experience.”

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Our Spiritual Allies

Despite the fact that most of the pagans and polytheists we personally know have more frequent interactions with non-deity spirits than they do with the gods, it’s uncommon to see people talking about these spirits online. This may be in part because of the stigma around having frequent spirit visitors (hell, even when those visitors are gods, there are even people in the pagan community who will see that as “crazy”), but I think that the only way that stigma will eventually go away is if people talk about it openly. Thus, Kalith and I have decided to write up this post about our own little cadre of non-deity spirits.

We’ve divided them roughly into two groups – our housemates and companions, who either live with us or interact with us frequently, and our visitors and other allies, which include our spirit guides and other spirits with whom we’ve had significant interactions. Any pictures included here are close to what these beings look like, but not exact.

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Our Housemates and Companions

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Kenara – Exile by Taryn Knight

Kenara

I’ve already written a full post on Kenara here. In short, she is a lilim, a child of Lilla, with whom I share a body. She and Kalith are in a semi-casual relationship, and she and I work together on occasion in the Dreaming when we have mutual clients.

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The Red-Headed Woman – Lisya by Antonio De Luca

The Red-Headed Woman

The Red-Headed Woman is the closest spirit companion of Kalith’s. Basically, he was sort of her parole officer until recently, after he had grown to understand her motivations and methodology better. They don’t share a body the way Kenara and I do, but he can and does channel her on a relatively frequent basis – she particularly likes to show up as a recurring NPC in games we DM. We do know her real name, but she prefers not to share it publicly.

She was once mortal, and in her first life, she served as a necromancer and an assassin for the dead – for example, if a ghost had suffered a wrongful death and wanted vengeance, she was the one who carried out their will. In her next life (which was in an Unveiled realm) she became a vampire. She subsequently founded her own assassin guild, the Nameless, which is active in many realms. She and many of the members of her guild are devotees of the Morrigan. She’s somewhat sociopathic, though she has a strong sense of justice in that she largely accepts assassination contracts on the powerful and corrupt. She’s also asexual – she views seduction and sex as unpleasant but sometimes necessary tools. Some of the members of her guild are shadowkin, including some of my court.

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Mogrin

Mogrin is our household gargoyle; he came with the statue above when Kalith purchased it. He keeps watch over and maintains our wards. He’s a grumpy bastard and he likes to complain about our other spirits (particularly the Fae), but deep down, he genuinely cares for everyone. He loves the smell of mulled cider, so we use a mulled cider candle to recharge our wards.

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Calcifer – Fire Imp by Mystofeles

Calcifer

Our resident imp. Kalith had the brilliant idea to name our electric stove this after watching Howl’s Moving Castle, in which Calcifer is a character who lives in the titular Howl’s stove. Less than two weeks later, he was cooking bacon (the character Calcifer’s favorite food) on that same stove when he accidentally spilled the bacon grease and started a fire. Luckily, he was quick to respond and put it out before it became a major hazard, but I couldn’t help pointing out that we’d never had a stove fire before we had named it Calcifer. Over the next few months, it became clear that an imp had taken the naming as an invitation to move in. We don’t know the imp’s true name and he’ll likely never tell us. He moved with us, and is very happy to have a gas stove to reside in now. He likes to play pranks on Arya and has something of a crush on her.

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Arya’s true form – Emerald Peacock Secret Keeper by Melody Pena

Arya

Arya is our cat. While technically she’s not a spirit since she’s embodied, she is a faerie dragon in spirit. Both Kalith and I have had times where, half-asleep, we’ve seen her in a draconic form similar to the image above, except her wings are avian. She also has draconic traits, such as a love of sitting on piles of stuff (particularly paper and coins). She really likes playing with imps; when she was younger, she used to rip through our wards with portals to their realm. She doesn’t do that anymore, though I think that’s mainly because she has Calcifer as a playmate now.

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Piko

When I started to unconsciously delve into the darker reaches of the Dreaming about three years ago (I was waking up to psychic attacks from nightmare creatures that had tracked me back to the waking world), Kalith and I decided to search for an entity familiar with the Dreaming to guide and guard my sleeping self. We found Piko at a Renne faire; she had taken up residence in the statue above. She agreed to serve as my guardian, we bought the statue (incidentally, the display statue was the last one available, so we didn’t even have to transfer her to a different one), and we took her home. Later, I found out that she was shadowkin. She was the first shadowkin I had (knowingly) met who was friendly towards me, and when I learned of my queenship and that many of my court were also shadowkin, she helped me to get past my assumptions about them. Her official title is as my Herald (though general-helper-person-of-awesomeness would be more accurate), and she serves as my regent when I’m not at court.

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Spiritual Visitors and Other Allies

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people of my court, more or less – Elven Trackers by Mark Winters

my Court

I am a sacred queen and a viceroy of the Morrigan. The spirits in my court are Fae (mostly wood elves and shadowkin) and the land I represent for them is the Dreaming. My court is unofficially aligned with the Winter court, and I have plans to make that allegiance official soon. Due to political drama at the Yule Ball in 2013, I moved the court from Faerie to Kalith’s residence in the Otherworlds, which is something of a hub for mercenaries and travelling warriors. Initially this was a temporary move to protect my people, but most of my court preferred having a larger fighting force to defend them and many were able to re-establish their lives locally. We maintain portals to Faerie on our former lands and diplomatic ties with several other courts, including Shasta’s court.

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Shasta – image by Soa Lee

Shasta of House Brightwing

Shasta is a faerie queen and the viceroy of Summer in her particular region of the Fae Lands. Kalith saved her life, and her father (who was the reigning ruler at the time) offered him a job as her personal bodyguard and trainer. He has fought for and alongside her on numerous occasions, eventually earning the position of Champion for House Brightwing. She’s diplomatic, resourceful, and an avid lover of everything shiny. She has an inordinately large collection of tiaras. She’s still young for a faerie, and rules alone without king or consort.

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Kaya – Marion du Faouet by Lowenael

Kaya

Kaya is Kalith’s spirit guide and mentor. She was the main one to teach him how to be a Hunter, the history of the path, and to help him find his own purpose and meaning along it. In her life, she was the second Huntress in history. Her soul was originally a Shard of Freyja. She’s ancient and quite powerful – the one time Kalith challenged her to a duel, she knocked him across the room with no effort at all. She may very well be deity-level, we’ve just never witnessed her multilocate.

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Arwen – Isadora from Harbinger Chronicles by Gordon Napier

Arwen

I’ve already talked about Arwen briefly, along with my spiritual mother and her side of the family, here. Starting when I was eight, Arwen trained me in magick and taught me how to gain a measure of control over my forays into the Dreaming. She is a Winter Fae (an elf, to be precise) and my grand-niece on my mother’s side. She is also shadowkin, though I was unaware of this when I was young. She married a neighboring king, and during her tenure as his royal consort, she fell to the Shadow. With the help of others in my family she was able to regain control of herself and her powers, but by that point she had already done irrevocable damage. Subsequently, she sealed herself away and now only interacts with others via astral projection.

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Luna Mariam – Renaissance Angel by ellaine

Luna Mariam

My spirit guide, who came into my life at around the same time as Arwen and helped me to make sense of the memories I had from “S”. She is an angelic emanation of Maryam Magdalene; her duties include observing the stars and ensuring they’re on their proper paths. She referred to me as a “princess of the angels” long before I’d known or accepted my angelic heritage or my father’s former status among them. Contact with her faded off once I started to communicate with Maryam Magdalene directly.

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Kaeva & Krona

Kaeva and Krona were longtime spirit companions of Kalith; he doesn’t work with them much anymore due to shifts in his path, but they’re still our friends and allies. Kaeva is a shadow wolf (elemental shadow – Kaeva is not shadowkin), a tracker and stealthy-type fighter, even-keel and stalwart. Krona is a storm raven (he looks like a normal raven but with a white lightning bolt mark on his back) and scout, cheery and talkative. Kalith mainly worked with them when he was on the hunt, but he also sent them to guard people when he couldn’t guard them himself.

 

Kalith’s Korner: Hunting 101

For my first informative post, I have decided that it would be best for me to start with the basics of my path as a Hunter. This will be the first of many posts that delve into what this path means to me, how it affects my life, and how to recognize if this path calls to you or if someone you know may be a Hunter. As I stated in my introductory post, this path is almost exclusively based on UPG. You won’t find any information on Hunting in Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica; you may find scattered references or tidbits in history (such as the dhampir, traditionally Hunters of vampires), but very little solid information. I have only recently learned of a possible historically-known warrior path (the fénnidi), that may be categorized as Hunters; however, this is an old path (my UPG is that it goes back at least to proto-Indo-European times) and I’m sure there are others.

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Hunters: Defining Practices and Traits

To start with, a Hunter is a specific kind of spiritual warrior. “Spiritual warrior” is a broad category, including among it many different paths. In general, spiritual warriors are persons whose duty is to defend someone(s) or something(s) from harmful spiritual entities. This can take many forms; a spiritual warrior might be a casual practitioner of magick who helps spirits move on or banishes them if needed, or they could be someone who is sworn to protect a sacred place with their lives. While spiritual warriors are relatively common, Hunters tend to be rare. I haven’t met many outside of those I’ve trained with, in this realm or on others.

I have spent many years thinking about what makes a Hunter different from other kinds of spiritual warriors. The main difference is in the way Hunters fight; we rely primarily on martial prowess mixed with simple but effective bursts of magick. Hunters tend to be more physical than other spiritual warriors, and unlike most, we prefer to fight on the physical plane rather than on the astral. Most Hunters that I’ve met fight hand-to-hand or with some kind of weapon. This may be a physical weapon, it may be spiritual or astral in nature, or it may be a combination of the two (for example, a physical bow with spiritual arrows). This can get a bit strange for anyone watching the Hunter work (or even for the Hunter themselves) as most observers will see the Hunter fighting an invisible entity and are likely to consider them to be crazy. A few Hunters prefer to rely on their magick more than their martial skill, which is often much less noticeable.

Hunters tend to share a certain set of mannerisms and quirks both in real life and in media portrayals (which I’ll get to later). These include: a flair for the dramatic (such as in wearing unusual clothes and making grand entrances), an enjoyment of gallows humor and snark, walking with a strong gait or “swagger”, confidence (some would say cockiness), stubbornness, a solitary nature (most often in an attempt to keep one’s loved ones out of harm’s way), practicality, and a tendency to wear black. It’s also very common for Hunters to have dyslexia, which will make more sense when I go into the history of Hunters in a later post. Additionally, while most spiritual warriors work from the edge of society, removed from it and yet still a part of it, Hunters tend to work from outside society and are known for wandering from place to place, picking up work wherever they go.

Female Hunters, or Huntresses, have some additional unique traits. They’re more rare than males – it’s a ratio of about 1:5, which I’ll go into more in later posts. Huntresses are usually more pragmatic and less emotionally driven than male Hunters. They’re more willing to “take the nuclear option”, so to speak, which is saying something amongst Hunters. They also, oddly, have a lack of culinary skill (I have no idea why this is the case, it’s just something I’ve noticed over time).

Generally, Hunters can work well with other spiritual warriors. I can say from personal experience that though I can work with basically anyone if it involves a common goal, I prefer to handle things by myself because I tend to deal with things differently than most. Finally, because this path is largely informed by UPG and because many Hunters are quite headstrong, I’ve also seen Hunters who have strong, differing opinions on how to categorize an entity or handle a situation. If they aren’t able to compromise or find the truth in the middle, the discussion can very quickly devolve into an argument.

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Walking the Hunter’s Path

Being a Hunter – or any kind of spiritual warrior – takes talent as well the training to hone that talent into skill. First, one needs to be able to See or feel various beings and entities, corporeal and non-corporeal, as well as magick and energy in general. Usually this is an innate, untrained talent. When I’m considering whether or not to take someone on as an apprentice, this is one of the first things I look for. The next thing that is crucial for Hunters is trusting in oneself and one’s senses and instincts. On this path, almost everything you deal with is non-physical and every time you deal with them it’s based purely on one’s own senses, so it’s very important to be able to trust yourself. This can be trained, but it may be difficult to do so depending on the person.

The other part about being a Hunter is that, unlike many spiritual paths, it seems to be a uniquely (or possibly predominantly) human path. Every Hunter that I’ve met has either been human, part-human, or incarnated within a human body. For example, in my case, I didn’t embark on the Hunter path until after I had incarnated as human. Because of this, Hunters have to undergo certain kinds of training in order to be able to best the kinds of dangers that they will face, and they must also learn how to identify a wide variety of non-corporeal creatures.

A Hunter must undergo training in magick, and they should begin or keep up with a regular meditation practice. They need to be trained in at least the basics of fighting; if the Hunter uses a particular weapon, they need to undergo training with that weapon as well. In addition, they should keep up with general fitness. It’s not that every Hunter needs to be a perfect physical specimen, but the job of moving around large amounts of energy as well as engaging in hand-to-hand and physical combat is far easier if one is in reasonable shape. Finally, the majority of Hunters also take on modifications to their basic form to improve their speed, reflexes, stamina, and so on; Hunters who don’t undergo these modifications must make up for it with more rigorous training.

Though this isn’t always the case, most Hunters that undergo some kind of modification also have a change in their (astral) appearance and mannerisms, and their energy will feel quite different. I have already listed the kinds of mannerisms that most Hunters have; some people have these traits naturally, while others only gain them upon becoming a Hunter. In every case I’ve seen, these mannerisms only manifest in full force after they undergo these modifications. Sometimes these traits are a direct result of the modifications – for example, these Hunters often have a grey-ish or black aura, and those who can sense auras usually find this off-putting at best. Wearing black clothing helps to obfuscate this aura and make us more approachable, and additionally helps to absorb negative energy.

Obviously, as we live in a Veiled realm, it is not possible to physically undergo these sorts of modifications in our realm, but they can be done astrally. Additionally, many Hunters have already undergone this kind of transformation in another life in an Unveiled realm. Either way, following the modification, it is essential to use meditation and balancing techniques to bring one’s astral self closer to one’s physical self so that one can access its benefits on the hunt and in one’s day-to-day life with greater ease.

It’s important to note that these modifications are not permanent. I personally underwent a few different modifications throughout my various lives as well as in this one, and not all them apply anymore. For example, in one of my past lives, I gained vampiric abilities. As my path shifted in this life, I decided that I no longer needed or wanted them. I had this modification removed with a simple ritual and the aid of Odin. Other modifications may be harder to undo, but it is always possible to remove them. After removal, it’s quite likely that one will briefly enter fallow times until one can reconnect with one’s astral self and relearn how to rely only on one’s other abilities and modifications.

As for the way in which Hunters undergo their training and initiation, I have personally seen two varieties. Hunters are most often self-trained. I myself am self-trained and learned how to sense and fight various beings through trial and error, though I had the help of my then-best friend who was also a Hunter, as well as the spirits who guided us. Even though we were both gifted with very accurate Sight, this was still a process that took three years before we both felt reasonably confident in our senses and methodology.

The second way is to be apprenticed to another Hunter who has already gone through their training. I have trained several Hunters in this way; they were curious about learning more of how I sensed and fought things and wanted to be able to do the same. Additionally, I look for indicators that they might have been a Hunter in a past life, that they have strong Sight, and that they are capable in combat. After this, I walk them through the process of discovering their true name (or the name of their astral self) in meditation, if they don’t already know it. After that, they can begin the process of bringing themselves into closer balance with their astral self. From there, it’s just a matter of teaching them about the various creatures that are out there and how best to deal with them.

It’s also possible to be a Legacy Hunter – someone who is a Hunter through their bloodline by inheriting the changes that the previous generations have undergone, or by receiving one’s training from a family member. For example, I have trained three Hunters, none of whom would be considered Legacy Hunters because they were not related to me; however, if I were to have a kid and train them as a Hunter, my kid would then be a Legacy. Although this is popular in media portrayals, it’s pretty rare in real life. I know of them, but I have never met a Legacy myself.

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On the Hunt

Hunters differ in the exact ways in which they sense and deal with things, but the process of Hunting is similar in most cases. A Hunter may already have a specific target in mind, or they may be simply patrolling an area, but the Hunt begins when we sense the presence of a negative entity. Most Hunters I know agree that this presence feels like something out of place or something that feels “wrong”. Most Hunters can tell approximately how far away this entity is and in what direction, and the feeling grows stronger and more specific to the creature as we get closer to it. When we’re tracking the entity, it’s not uncommon for us to get lost in the feeling of Hunting and to not know exactly where we’re going or recall how we got there.

Once we’ve tracked our quarry, the next step is to determine exactly what we’re dealing with. This is most often done by Seeing or hearing them. We don’t usually see them as solidly as a physical being – it’s more like looking at their outline. The best way I can think of to describe it is how cloaked units appear in games and movies – their shape slightly distorts the environment around them, so you can see their outline and general form. For me, after sensing their energy and seeing its general shape, my mind fills in the rest of its appearance.

Sometimes, as with any kind of UPG, their appearance or attributes are translated into a form one can better comprehend – for me, this is usually some kind of video game visual. I refer to this translation versus the actual form as an “impression” from the media in question. It is important to note that every Hunter Sees things a little differently, depending on their experiences and their particular impressions. However, the feeling of the creature is almost always the same. I have seen many, many times where two Hunters come to the realization of what they are Hunting at the same time without even talking about it, simply because they identified it based on the feeling.

Hunters largely deal with entities that are from other planes and realms who seek to harm the people of this realm – entities that are angry, hateful, or just plain malicious. It is a warrior’s path, and as such, there are dangers. I have been injured on Hunts on several occasions. These injuries are not physical, but they still hurt in a strange, deep-in-your-body kind of way. The best way I can think of to explain this feeling is like having a very sore muscle or a flare-up of an old injury. As far as anything beyond injuries, I have never personally heard of any Hunter of this realm dying while on the Hunt or from injuries incurred while Hunting. However, it is possible for one’s astral form to be killed while Hunting on the astral, which most often results in one “waking up” as if from a nightmare, but could conceivably result in becoming comatose. Again, this is something I’ve never heard of happening, but it is theoretically possible.

Finally, I often tell my apprentices, “I can teach you how to fight, but I also have to help you learn why to fight.” This will obviously vary from person to person, however, the most common reason I have heard is to defend those the Hunter loves and cares for. Another common reason is vengeance – they have been hurt in some way by these entities, and they seek to fight back in order to keep them from hurting others.

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geralt_of_rivia_by_leopinheiro-d84j1ir

Geralt of Rivia by Leo Morg

Hunters in Media

One of the biggest influences on my path have been the media portrayals of Hunters. This, along with the fact that I trained with my best friend at the time, is why I have such confidence in the UPG I’ve received about Hunters. Many stories have portrayed Hunters in one way or another, and so many of them have similar traits. Below, I’ll list those Hunters in media which have influenced me the most or which I feel are the most true to form.

Demon Hunters (World of Warcraft & Diablo)

The character Illidan is literally the reason why I became a Hunter. His path, how he chose to become what he was, the sacrifices he made to do so, his ostracization from his own society, and the expression of his powers – all of these called to me in a time when I needed to see them. Demon hunters in Warcraft and in Diablo get their powers in similar ways; they expose themselves to dark energies and learn how to harness them to increase their strength. Because of this, they are often mistrusted in their own societies. The influence of these hunters led me to embrace many changes of a darker nature, including the aforementioned vampiric powers, berserker powers, and others that helped me to be stronger and faster but often at the cost of caring for the people around me. I’ve since moved away from these powers and taken more of a calm and contemplative path, but I still cannot deny the influence the demon hunters have had on me.

Witchers (the Witcher Saga games & books)

Although this is a more recent influence, it’s still a strong one. Witchers undergo rigorous training as children to prepare them for receiving mutagens that change their bodies, making them faster, stronger, and more alert to the world around them. They are also trained in minor magickal abilities called Signs, short but strong offensive and defensive spells. The main character, Geralt of Rivia, is the perfect model of the average Hunter. His mannerisms, sense of humor, and the way he approaches the world are a perfect representation of how Hunters behave. In my own practice, I now wear Geralt’s wolf medallion as wolves are a strong totem of mine and a symbol of several of my gods. I also have utilized the way they cast their Signs as an influence for integrating some of the runes into my fighting style.

Nick Burkhart (Grimm)

Nick is a great example of a Hunter’s mannerisms, their headstrong attitude, and their facial expressions (or so my wife says). It’s the best example I can think of for showing the Hunter’s sense of humor. This show does a very good job depicting Hunters, at least in the case of Nick and a few other characters that show up over time (in the story, most Grimms are extremists who hunt first and ask questions later; there are extreme Hunters out there, but they’re not very common). Outside of half-jokingly referring to myself as a Grimm, though, this show has no major influence on me – it’s just really good.

The Slayers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel)

The main thing about this show that struck me as accurate is the emotions of the Slayers. The emotions that Buffy goes through and some of the insights that are given to her by other people (whether she accepts them or not) are common among a lot of Hunters. More often than not, our greatest fear is ending up dying alone – or worse, becoming one of the monsters that we fight night in and night out. Additionally, the origin of the Slayers closely mirrors my UPG on the origin of Hunters (which I’ll get to in another post).

Other examples of Hunters in media include: Constantine (Hellblazer comics, movie, and TV show), the Winchesters (Supernatural), Van Helsing (Van Helsing and Dracula movies), and the Shadowhunters (the Mortal Instruments series), among others.

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That’s it for now. My next post will go into the history of Hunters according to my UPG. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or message me through the contact form.